Observations From the Coffee Shop – A Microcosm of Our Society

Coffee shops represent a unique opportunity to observe the human race in relative anonymity. Sitting in downtown Toronto in the waiting period between when my lovely girlfriend joins me and when my daughter is finished at concert she is watching I do what the average person in this coffee shop does not. I pause. In pausing I watch and pay attention to the surroundings.

The sound of milk steaming and the smell of fresh espresso. The clanging of spoons as baristas serve up highly priced custom drinks. The smell of freshly brewed coffee tinted with an assortment of aromas as perfumes and aftershave and body door at the end of the day all clash for dominance in an olfactory assault. I let the taste of my own highly priced drink (low fat vanilla latte) roll through my mouth the way I would cherish a good glass of scotch. In doing so, in consciously stopping and feeling, I open myself up to all around me…

Conversations in other circumstances that would be whispered, seam to gain a life and validity of their own as volumes increase so that friends can hear each other. Projecting their volume in a vomitus mass of words that in ordinary circumstances would not be discussed in public at all – or at a minimum in hushed tones. Always fearful that the secrets exchanged would go flying to ears that should not hear them. Yet the inside of the coffee shop seems to immune from such niceties as personal privacy. There are conversations about deals that people are working on,conversations about managers, companies, stocks – all the conversations that you would expect in a coffee shop in the heart of the financial district. There are conversations about co-workers, conversations about going out after work (but as long as *he* doesn’t come) conversations about family changes – who is getting married, having a baby, and who died.

Yet there is also a deeper more meaningful undertone. The two baristas who pause slightly when their hands touch. The shorter brunette looking at the taller blonde with a challenge as she looks away with a subtle blush. There is the business man and his female colleague. He is talking to a group in a fashion worthy of Socrates yet fails to notice how his companion cringes from his touch. Fails to recognize the plastic and rigid smile that is pasted to her face as she seems to endure the situation, falling deeper and deeper into herself as she emotionally and physically withdraws from him.

A text comes in from my girlfriend and I smile. She is on her way to me by train. Knowing the time it takes the train to travel this far, I order another high priced drink and continue looking around…

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